Neck injuries, disorders and conditions sometimes cause more than pain. They can also cause dizziness and poor balance. Cervical vertigo (or cervicogenic dizziness) creates a sensation that an individual is spinning or the world around them is spinning. It also affects your sense of balance and concentration. The spinning sensation is usually felt after moving your neck.
What causes cervical vertigo?
The nerves and arteries in your neck and back carry signals and blood flow to all parts of your body, including the brain stem and inner ear, which help control your balance. Neck injuries sometimes interfere with your sense balance when blood flow becomes restricted or nerves are damaged.
Neck injuries and conditions that affect with your sense of balance include:
- Whiplash – Misaligned vertebrae can press on nerves and arteries.
- Cervical stenosis – Narrowing of the spinal canal can put pressure on nerves and arteries.
- Osteoarthritis and other degenerative disc diseases – Wear and tear can cause vertebrae to slip out of place to compress nerves and blood flow.
Surgery and trauma can also interfere with blood flow or damage nerves that help send signals to the brain.
What are symptoms of cervical vertigo?
The most common symptom of cervical vertigo is dizziness after sudden neck movement. Dizziness may last for a few minutes or a few hours. Other symptoms may also include:
- Ear pain or ringing
- Neck pain
- Loss of balance while walking, sitting or standing
- Difficulty concentrating
Diagnosing and treating cervical vertigo
Your doctor will diagnosis cervical vertigo with a complete physical examination. During the exam, your provider will ask you to turn your head. Cervical vertigo may be diagnosed if you have sporadic eye movement as you turn your head.
You may also need imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, X-rays or other specialized tests.
Your doctor will also use images from tests to identify any conditions or diseases affecting the neck. Your treatment plan will include addressing the underlying neck condition, along with managing vertigo symptoms, which may include medication to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and limit vertigo episodes.